A colleague asked me to read and comment on J. Warner Wallace’s below article, which he published on April 24th, 2017. After reading this article, I decided to make my comments public. I have much more to say, but to avoid being too critical, I will refrain from many comments. But first is Wallace’s article.
“Recently, while visiting a local beach city here in Southern California, I watched a group of street evangelists as they talked to tourists in front of a liquor store. I’ll admit that I’m not usually involved in street preaching. It’s definitely an acquired skill; some people are really good at it (Ray Comfort comes to mind immediately), but others are not as gifted. This particular group of Christians was walking back and forth on the sidewalk carrying signs displaying Bible verses and proclaiming the wrath of God toward those who won’t repent and toward those who refuse to accept Christ’s offer of salvation. While the messages were Biblically accurate, I couldn’t help but think that their approach was a bit “off-putting.”
Many years ago our youth group encountered a street evangelist who took a similar approach. His efforts were often met with great resistance; his signs were brutally direct. I wondered if the message was the problem, so we tried crafting signs that were more “inviting” and less provocative. Our efforts met with the same response. We were heckled, resisted and abused. Even when our signs were worded so carefully that we nearly lost the exclusive truth of the Gospel, people still found our efforts offensive. Finally a young man on the street asked the question that illuminated the problem: “What are all you people protesting?” The question caught me off-guard. “We’re not protesting anything,” I said, re-reading our signs carefully in an attempt to understand how he could misinterpret our efforts. But his question made perfect sense.
Even though our “words” were not “words of protest”, our “actions” were “actions of protest.” Think about it for a minute. If I told you I saw a group of people walking back and forth in a limited geographic area carrying signs and talking to anyone who was willing to engage them, what would you think I was describing? A picket line? A protest event? We have a cultural context for this kind of behavior; it is the behavioral language of protest. Before I even get close enough to see what’s written on those signs, I’ve already started to interpret the behavior of the group and it’s not a favorable interpretation. Protestors are generally regarded as angry people who want an injustice to be righted. Most of us want to avoid protestors and few of us think of picket lines as the location where winsome interaction is likely to occur.
As I watched the efforts of that local Christian group of street evangelists, I couldn’t help but believe they limited their impact by using those signs. They took the time to carefully craft the language of the text on the placards without considering the language of their actions as sign holders. After my own experience using signs to proclaim a message on the streets of Utah, I’ve decided to think carefully about the perception created by this approach. While I never want to sacrifice the direct, exclusive and honest message of the Gospel, there’s no sense in adding offense. I don’t want my evangelism to look like a protest.” 
The following is a synopsis of my observations of Wallace’s above article.
In this article Wallace wrote about an observation that he made, when he observed some evangelists standing outside a liquor store in Huntington Beach, holding signage with Gospel messages. In his article Wallace complained about their signage, that it looked more like a “protest,” and he was very critical of their methods.
First let me begin with this compliment to Wallace. I can appreciate that Wallace is defending the faith as an apologist. Some have stated that Wallace is a great speaker, and after watching one of his presentations (online), I would agree that Wallace is very well-spoken. However as the Prince of Preachers Charles H. Spurgeon said, “Let eloquence be flung to the dogs rather than souls be lost. What we want is to win souls. They are not won by flowery speeches.” In other words, the content of the message is more important than the method.
First and foremost please understand that I do not know the Theology or Doctrines of the aforementioned evangelists that Wallace spoke ill about. Therefore I cannot endorse them. However it would be equally wrong for me to criticize them.
Secondly, it’s a shame that in just one day Wallace’s article has received 2,499 views. I say that because Wallace is training (or discipling) the church away from orthodoxy, and he is moving many progressively forward via the emergent, purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive, user-friendly movement. By his own admission, in previous posts Wallace admits to being heavily influenced by Rick Warren (which includes being on Staff at Warren’s church).
My critique of the article:
My first observation is the photo that Wallace chose to use for this article. It is deceiving as it gives the impression that this is what the Christians looked like. In other words, Wallace is publicly defaming Christ’s bride for doing the work of an evangelist.
Wallace admits these evangelists were “talking to tourists” in front of a liquor store. Therefore they are not just “Protestors,” but evidently they are doing the work of an evangelist.
Wallace admits that he lacks knowledge of, and experience in street preaching. Therefore we have a ‘novice’ judging those that are perhaps more experienced.
He then stated “It’s definitely an acquired skill; some people are really good at it (Ray Comfort comes to mind immediately), but others are not as gifted.”
This is not a man-centered “skill” or vocation that men become merely “good at.” Evangelism is a calling and a commandment. And if they are preaching and/or teaching the Word of God, then it is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Wallace appears to be man-centered, and if anything we do is “good,” it is only by the grace of a sovereign God. As the Scriptures warn, we must always give all the glory to the Lord, and never to man.
And who does Wallace refer to as the person that does evangelism right (according to Wallace)? Ray Comfort. So here we go again. Another Christian claiming that Ray Comfort is the model for doing it the correct way, and just about everyone else is wrong. Yes the Lord has used Comfort in great ways, but Comfort has also caused many to stray away from orthodox evangelism. Regarding some of the methods Comfort uses, I would encourage you to read my blog post entitled “A Christians Critique on Ray Comforts “180” Movie,” In the footnotes, of this same blog post, I also included Jack Hibbs 2014 interview of Ray Comfort, which is full of unbiblical and/or extra biblical methods.
In his article Wallace also complains, “This particular group of Christians was walking back and forth on the sidewalk carrying signs displaying Bible verses and proclaiming the wrath of God toward those who won’t repent and toward those who refuse to accept Christ’s offer of salvation. While the messages were Biblically accurate, I couldn’t help but think that their approach was a bit “off-putting.”
For the record it’s important for me to say that probably 98% of the time I evangelize, I do not use signage, but I’m not opposed to those that use Gospel-centered / Christ-centered signage. It’s been proven to be very effective. There are some signs out there that I am opposed to, but if they are Bible verses and Gospel warnings, then praise the Lord. Wallace even admits that the signs these evangelists use are Scriptural, but he complains that “their approach was a bit off-putting.”
Regarding the “wrath of God” the Bible is very clear in verse 36 of John chapter three, that everyone who is not born-again according to verses 3-5, are clearly under the wrath of God. And Jesus warned “repent” or “perish” (Luke 13:3). At least these men loved the lost enough to warn them of this Biblical truth. Wallace admits they are Biblically accurate, but complains they are “off-putting.” Perhaps by his own admission he is opposed to Biblical evangelism.
Wallace is a retired police officer, therefore I know that he knows what a “dying death declaration” is. Has he forgotten about the dying death declaration that the Apostle Paul gave shortly before he died? Just before the Apostle Paul was martyred, in Acts 20:25-31, he gave the following dying death declaration.
“And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the ‘whole counsel’ of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”
We are commanded to teach the whole counsel of God, which would include the wrath of God. Therefore the Apostle Paul does not have the blood of men on his hands, and perhaps neither will these evangelists outside that liquor store.
Wallace needs to get his eyes off of men, and back on Christ and His sufficient Scriptures.
Regarding these men allegedly being “off-putting.” There’s nothing we can do to push the non-saved further away from Christ. It says in Ephesians 2:1-9, that before we were saved, we were “DEAD” in our trespasses. That word dead is the Greek word “Nekros” which is where we get our modern words necrophiliac, necrophilia, and necromancer from. Men that are not saved are Nekros, they are as dead as a corpse in a grave, and they are unable to rise from their grave. Unless the Father draws them, and the Son redeems them, and the Holy Spirit regenerates them, dead men can do nothing, nor can the dead be pushed further away.
As I’ve stated before “Salvation is a supernatural ‘miracle’ and work of the Lord, not of ourselves. To be more specific, salvation is the Divine work of the Holy Trinity. Salvation comes to others as the Father draws (gives) them to His Son (John 6:37-44; 17:2, 6, 9, 24), through the redemptive work of Christ (John 10:15, Heb 9:11-28, Eph. 5:25b), as the Holy Spirit regenerates their heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27, John 3:5-8, Titus 3:5-6, Rom 2:29; cf 2 Tim. 2:25, 2 Cor. 4:6, John 10:27, Acts 16:14, John 1:13).” And this is accomplished by the preaching (or reading) of the glorious Gospel (Roms 1:16).
Wallace stated, “Many years ago our youth group encountered a street evangelist who took a similar approach. His efforts were often met with great resistance; his signs were brutally direct. I wondered if the message was the problem, so we tried crafting signs that were more “inviting” and less provocative. Our efforts met with the same response. We were heckled, resisted and abused. Even when our signs were worded so carefully that we nearly lost the exclusive truth of the Gospel, people still found our efforts offensive.”
What’s wrong with being “brutally direct?” In Revelation 21:8, our Lord Jesus brutally warned the lost, that they will spend an eternity in the lake of fire. It warns in Revelation 20:14-15 that Jesus will cast (ballō them with intense violence) them into the lake of fire. But Jesus doesn’t stop there, He brutally tells them that this will be their second death. There are many articles and videos out there that display just how brutally direct Christ was and still is. Do you suppose that when Christ returns on His white horse, that He might be “brutally direct?”
We must be careful to not form Jesus into a figment of our own imagination, rather we must submit to the image of Jesus as the Christ (according to the Gospel).
Where in the Bible does it say that we are to be more “inviting” and less provocative” as Wallace states?
Wallace then complains that when he once used signage, he was “heckled, resisted and abused.” Wallace’s web site states he has a Master’s degree in Theology, but this article gives the appearance that he has never read the book of Acts. Has he not read how our heroes of the faith in the Bible were “heckled, resisted, and abused?” Oh and I forgot – they were KILLED as well. Has he not read Foxes Book of Martyrs? Does he not know that today a Christian is martyred every five minutes? Does he not know that Biblical evangelism, produces hecklers, resistance, and abuse? Does he now know that Jesus foretold that the world would hate Christians (John 15:18-27).
Wallace shares a memory of when he did evangelize using signage, that a person asked him “What are all you people protesting?” I will agree with Wallace that some signage does look more like a “protest.” When I think of Westboro, or a few other street preachers, that truly are more like ‘protesters,’ rather than ‘proclaimers’ of the Gospel. Nonetheless, as long as they are preaching the true Gospel, I don’t care what the world thinks.
Wallace then writes about the “behavior” of these evangelists, that their Gospel centered signage displays a negative “behavioral language.” That is a bunch of psycho-babble. Is Wallace a psychologist or a Christian?
I do agree with Wallace’s following statement. “While I never want to sacrifice the direct, exclusive and honest message of the Gospel, there’s no sense in adding offense. I don’t want my evangelism to look like a protest.” However Wallace does not set the standard, Scripture does. And our heroes of early church history have set a good example.
Jesus said that if we love the things of this world, the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15-17). James said that friendship with the world is enmity with the Lord (James 4:4-5). Paul said that we’re not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12). I choose to follow Christ, not Wallace’s purpose-driven ways.
Biblical evangelism is not pretty, sometimes it gets downright ugly and dirty.
In closing, as one dear friend said to me this morning, “Professional, polished speakers of the Gospel in air conditioned, comfortable churches are in a whole different world than street preachers. That’s just reality. It isn’t book of Acts Christianity, though. And that’s what American Evangelicalism needs to return to. But at this point in history, I don’t think it will. We are in His hands.”
And as I’ve said before, it is the Heralds or boots in the streets that work in stressful, unsafe, unpredictable, uncontrolled, unrehearsed, and sometimes even dangerous work environments, all of which is done free of salary.
Lastly the most important remark or contribution that I can give to my colleagues inquiry, is what the Scripture says about agreeing or disagreeing with some preachers. For that article and video, click here.
 Cold-Case Christianity with J. Warner Wallace, When evangelism looks like a protest, http://coldcasechristianity.com/2017/when-evangelism-looks-like-a-protest/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20ColdCaseChristianity%20(Cold%20Case%20Christianity) (Accessed on April 25th, 2017)